The Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program, YO ACAP, has dedicated its efforts of service to the African-American community of Philadelphia for the past ten years. YO ACAP is primarily an AIDS organization that provides street outreach in the form of interactive workshops, dramatic presentations, HIV testing, gender specific support groups in area high schools, prevention case management services, college access programs, and HIV positive and Hepatitis C support groups. Linda Burnette formed YO ACAP in 1989, after the merger of two organizations, a celebrity reps group and a peer education program. The program targets students in the entire Philadelphia school district, based on their zip code, including juvenile justice system schools.
With its unique way of reaching youth through the use of rap musicals and interactive workshops to discuss social issues continues to teach and advocate for better health of African-Americans young and old, the importance of voting, and taking a stand for what individuals feel is right. YO ACAP allows young people to become involved by using their creativity and skills to reach one another, provides them with insight as to how social service agencies are run as they offer input on programming, while giving them valuable, health-saving information.
YO ACAP workshops mainly focus on HIV/AIDS but also cover topics such as entrepreneurship, violence, drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancy, and proper study skills. After each workshop or play, the volunteers at YO ACAP distribute evaluation forms to the attendees. These evaluations offer the opportunity for students to indicate their interest in participating in future YO ACAP productions. Students are selected to participate based on their willingness to participate.
Most of the staff at YO ACAP is under 18 years of age and are working to fulfill community service requirements for graduation. Most of these volunteers are unpaid, although there are a few paid positions as well.
In the last two years, YO ACAP volunteers have been working diligently to expand their services. As a result of their efforts, the program now includes in-house HIV testing, held every Wednesday, which involves young people voluntarily coming to the YO ACAP facility to talk about contraception and other topics in a fun way. These sessions are treated as fun affairs, with the young volunteers talking in an informal way with the visiting youth, using positive peer pressure to spread their message of HIV/AIDS prevention. YO ACAP has also instituted a Hepatitis-C support group for adults 45 years and older, and an HIV-positive support group.
The services offered by YO ACAP extend beyond the normal limits of service to AIDS/HIV patients and the people who volunteer with YO ACAP see their work as a calling and not just a job.